We recently launched a second edition of our online “learn how to meditate” course and there is a reason why we decided to run this course again. As yoga and meditation teachers, this practice is a crucial element in our lives. It’s our foundation and our oasis.
While yoga is a beautifully releasing and healing practice that clears our energy field, meditation raises our consciousness, makes us more aware, and takes us to the place where we can meet ourselves fully and deeply. There are numerous benefits of regular meditation practice, but trust us when we say that you won’t fully understand it until you experience it first hand.
What’s important to know is that meditation is a practice and as any practice it requires courage to face our own challenges and fears, discipline to show up for ourselves even on days when we resist it most, compassion to look at our own imperfections and mistakes with love and patience to stay with the practice even when it doesn’t seem to go the way we thought it would.
As our personal practice continues despite the challenges, those qualities (courage, discipline, compassion and patience) become an intricate part of who we are. Yet, at the start of the journey, we may find it difficult to find all of those within ourselves. Below we offer some tips on how to overcome the most commonly encountered challenges when you start your journey with meditation.
8 Challenges in Meditation and How to Handle Them
1. Challenge: I don’t have time to meditate.
Our Advice: We all have days when it’s hard to find time to even get enough sleep or sit down to breakfast. How can we find the time to meditate when we hardly have the time to look after our physiological needs? We hear you, we’ve been there as well!
When things are hectic and life gets busy, it can be challenging to stick to our usual routine, not to mention including new habits into our lives. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to bring an element of mindfulness into your life, even on days like this:
- Mindful walking or eating – choose one task that day that you can be fully present with. When you do that, notice how it feels in your body and what goes through your mind. For instance, while walking feel the soles of your feet touching the ground. While eating, allow yourself to fully taste each piece of food you put into your mouth.
- Before you go to sleep, sit for a moment on the edge of your bed and scan your body noticing how it feels on a physical, energetic and emotional level. If all you have is 60 sec, know that this is enough to bring more awareness into your life.
- As you go through your day, notice which of the thoughts in your head are your opinions and which of those are facts. This is a practice that becomes much easier with time.
These practices will introduce more awareness into your life, even on days when formal meditation practice doesn’t feel feasible.
2. Challenge: I have no motivation to practice my meditation.
Our Advice: When meditation becomes a chore, we might start resisting it. Is that your experience? What does it teach you about yourself? Does it happen in other aspects of your life too? Can you overcome this pattern?
From our experience, we often resist meditation practice on days (or weeks) when we need it the most. Next time you feel like sitting down to meditation is a little bit too much, remember that it’s often a sign that you need this practice more than ever.
FInally, know that meditation doesn’t have to be long. It’s better to practice 5 min meditation than not do it at all. Next time the idea of meditation feels a bit overwhleming, simply set your alarm for 3 or 5 min and allow yourself to sit in stillness.
3. Challenge: My legs are in pain when I sit still.
Our Advice: This may not be a problem if you meditate for 3 min a day but once you start extending the length of your practice, the soreness and numbness might become a challenge. There are two things you can do:
- if it feels possible, stay with the sensations and observe your own reactions;
- if it feels excrusiating,it might be advisable for you to sit in a chair during longer meditations.
Before you decide what to to take the time to get to know your body. Sitting with your legs crossed on the floor might be doable for you for 15 min a day, but it might be causing serious pains in your knees if you do it for an hour. Cross-legged positions might be completely inaccessible for some while others will find it naturally comfortable. Finally, some of us might find it easeir to sit on the ground after a physical yoga practice. Once you know what works for you, choose a position that serves your body well in that particualr moment (that’s what compassion is). Once you chose your position and made your commitment to it, stay with it for the rest of your practice (that’s where discipline comes in).
4. Challenge: My mind keeps wandering during meditation. I just can’t stop thinking!
Our Advice: That’s what the mind does so noticing it within yourself is a huge step on your meditation journey. There’s nothing wrong with our minds zoning in and out. It’s quite the opposit – it’s something that we allow ourselves to notice and observe during the process. Meditation is a practice of noticing our thoughts and continuously returning back to the present moment. Thinking about the past or future is our mind’s way of trying to escape being present in the here and now. Each time our mind wanders, we notice it lovingly and compassionately and return back to the present moment. Some days, we will spend the entire practice deep in our thoughts while other days we will get a glimpse of what it means to be fully present. None of these experiences is more important than the other. Together, they all form our personal paths to awakening.
5. Challenge: I feel restless and unsettled during my meditation.
Our Advice: There will be days when we feel achy, restless and irritated throughout the entire practice (or perhaps even before we start). On days like this, know that staying with all these sensations is an important part of practice. Through these feelings and sensations, we’re presented with a challenge of staying with and witnessing the discomforts within us. Can we move through it without judgment and without reaction? If we continue meditation even when we feel restless and unsettled, our awareness expands. We overcome our own patterns.
6. Challenge: I often fall asleep during meditation.
Our Advice: That’s a common challenge among those who meditate while lying down in their beds right after they wake up or before they go to sleep. Does that refer to you too?
One way of addressing it is to make sure you always sit down for your meditation practice. It can also be useful to have a dedicated meditation space (other than your bed).
Then, there are those days when we sit down on the floor with our legs crossed, in our special, dedicated meditation zone and then we start dozing off. We might feel tired or under the weather. On those days, listen to your body. It’s ok to take a break and get a nap instead of meditating. Discipline is important, but so is the ability to listen to our bodies and meeting our own needs.
7. Challenge: I don’t know what to do while meditating.
Our Advice: There are numerous different meditation techniques from watching your breath to focusing your attention on an object, and so on. If you’d like to learn more about different methods (we call them “tasks” that you can give your mind to do during meditation), I’d encourage you to join our meditation course.
However, if it’s not something you can do right now, here is one simple technique you could try:
- Close your eyes and begin counting your exhales from 1 to 10.
2. Once you get to 10, start over again.
3. Repeat it over and over again and if your mind starts to wander, simply bring it back to your breath and pick up counting just where you left it. Through breath we can enter the present moment.
The task of counting our exhales gives our mind something to do (counting) while rbinign su closer to our inner nature (thorugh breath).
8. Challenge: Nothing happens when I meditate. It doesn’t seem to work.
Our Advice: If that’s your experience then you’ll be glad to know that there’s a beautiful message underneath that. First, ask yourself: what did you expect from your meditation? Then allow yourself to realize that whatever you’re feeling or thinking is a result of your own expectations. It’s quite common for us all to approach different tasks in our life with an expectation of a specific result. But what happens when we don’t get what we expected?
By realizing that we bring our own expectation to meditation practice, we learn something important about ourselves. There’s nothing specific that should happen during your meditation practice. Meditation is just a practice of being present in the here and now. Most of us do it because we feel that there’s something important and sacred about it. It doesn’t mean though that during this practice we will gain insights into the ultimate truth, experience awakening, enlightenment or a big shift in life. The thing is, that our expectation of “something big” happening is what prevents us from being fully present.
What can you do next?
We hope that you found these tips useful, however, if you have any other questions, feel free to drop us a message in comments below. We would love it if you could also share this article on your social media or with anyone who you know might benefit from it.